The moral action in naming genocide

Adapted from an article published in The Christian Science Monitor, March 18, 2016.

Under pressure from Congress, the Obama administration declared on March 17 that the Islamic State has committed genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shiite Muslims. The designation is only a legal stance, one based on a 1948 international treaty written after the Holocaust. It does not trigger the United States to do more than it already is doing in leading a military coalition to defeat IS.

Yet by pinning this worst of all crimes on IS, the US has now joined many other institutions in taking a moral stance. And by definition, morality is not merely a matter of principled words. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in making the designation against this group of Islamist militants, “What is essential is stopping them.”

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